Article written by Jeff Martin, co-founder and CEO of Core10.
Definition of Micromanage: control every part, however small, of an enterprise or activity.
"Micromanage the process, not the people."
Relinquishing control of any part of your company is a challenge, and I would correlate that the more insecurity a leader possesses directly relates to how difficult it is for them to change. Unchecked insecurity can manifest in many ways. I am going to touch on a couple of influences that have greatly improved my ability to manage my own insecurities and highlight some of the lessons I have learned from my journey as a "recovering micromanager."
As an avid consumer of new ideas and perspectives, I frequently listen to TED Talks, some strongly correlated to the everyday problems we often face. Itay Talgam’s 2009 Talk “Lead Like the Great Conductors” opened my eyes to another layer of true leadership. Orchestras consist of dozens of musicians and the conductor is charged with the task of making beautiful music, or as Talgam puts it "creating order out of chaos. How we manage the interpretation of our vision is perhaps our most pressing task.
Leading large groups takes faith in your people, your process, and in many cases, understanding that you, as the leader, aren't that important. Are you accountable for the results? Yes. The notion that the more responsibility you shoulder should equal the more fingers you have in the pie can be a crippling approach.
As I have matured in my career, I have realized that my role as the CEO is about painting a picture of how I want our organization to behave and what we are trying to accomplish. For too long, I approached management like a "one man band," determined to prove my value by showing people my intelligence.
Another influence on this shift in approach was the book "Multipliers, Revised and Updated: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter" by Liz Wiseman. Her profiling of a multiplier versus a diminisher is enough to make anyone rethink their leadership style.
Hovering over every detail of the company and handcuffing the value each individual brings to the table can have damaging consequences: morale suffers, the volume of quality work is greatly reduced, and as a leader it damages any hope of genuine relationships. In trying to produce our desired result, we mismanage our people's ability to do great work. There is an immense power in surrounding yourself with great people and allowing them to do great work.
Earlier in my career, I did all of the recruiting, handled every client relationship, and made every process change or recommendation I felt was needed. My control over our company didn't stop there, as I wanted to put MY stamp on every aspect of our company. Looking back, struggling while trying to control everything was a part of the maturing process I had to go through; however I need to apologize to the managers and employees, I wanted to be right and in control and the more friction I created by micromanaging, the more I realized I needed to change.
In the beginning, it takes a great deal of "forced humility" to loosen the reins. I was able to take solace in the fact that our company was moving forward faster than it ever had. Conversations changed from "do this" to "what is your plan to get this done?" Although I am not completely cleansed of my desire to have things done my way, the results validate my shift in approach.
Below are some important lessons I have learned in my time as a "recovering micromanager":
- You need to put a great deal of care into how and whom you hire
- Identify the role you need filled and what that person needs to bring to the table.
- Appreciate that they will be an extension of you as a leader, or at least a reflection of your priorities in your decision making.
- Your communication skills will be challenged...a lot
- Be clear and concise with your vision and expectations. If you aren't, be prepared to deal with the interpretations your people come up with.
- You will have to swallow your pride...a lot
- Your ego will need as much attention as your staff in the beginning. Realign your personal roles as they relate to the success of your company. You become the "map maker" on the road to success, rather than the traffic copy.
- YOU aren't always the solution to every problem
- Sometimes the solution is hiding behind the cloud of your influence. Step back, give space, support and encouragement to allow your people to grow and the problem to disappear.
In closing, there is power in giving your people the ability to learn, fail, and create. Be a leader who inspires and empowers through clear direction and a powerful vision...the results will take care of themselves.
"Provide great musicians with great music and they will play beautiful music. Provide great people with great processes and they will achieve extraordinary results."